The Things We Remember-Travel Vignettes

Travel leaves its imprint not in the form of bold, graphic stamps on our wrinkled brain but through lingering moments that seem to hover over the folds of grey matter. Little lingering snippets. The novel yet mundane details of a place that perhaps locals pay no mind. Those things that, if you’re the kind of person who takes to noticing, may earn you new descriptors; you’re “observant”, “attuned.” But what sticks and what washes away within the world of our consciousness clings to no apparent logic and warrants no special award.

Random memories speckle our minds, leaving indents with varying degrees of depth. Some moments might strike you so strongly you feel the need to urgently jot them down in your notebook or drink them up greedily to store away for future sips. Or maybe the moments are more subtle, elusive scents you can never put your hands on, so you simply relish in their unnamable fragrance. No matter how they arrive there, these ripped out scenes often remain lodged in remote crannies of our memory, begging to be dusted off from time to time for a few minutes of limelight on our mental big screen.

These hodge podge collections conspire together and stitch themselves into what comes to be our foggy impression of a place. Esoteric feelings, thoughts and images coalesce into a formed opinion of a location fixed in time. A place you will reach for later and hope to pull out as untarnished as when you first set foot in its shining streets. Streets not yet dulled from repetition, but bright from the glow of your mind flushing anew with the taste of possibility.

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The sweetly sickening PDA of an enamored couple sitting across from me, to the right of my sight line, 2 o’clock. Almost a caricature of themselves sitting in this too-perfect roadside shack in paradise. The air is hot, the sky, gorgeous. A heavy sun, going down more quickly than I would have imagined. A sight that brought all of us, all four of us couples, together. All drawn to the same quaint stand with the same idea: to drink in this sunset. A scene we can only get in small doses, our time here is limited, better savor it up. We watch while cozily ensconced in the security of our own relationships, not recognizing each other yet comfortable in our informal holiday gathering. Separate yet together, all eyes transfixed by the postcard perfection of the intoxicating air and undeniable golden glow. I slurp down sweet orange papaya nectar and enjoy freezer fries with ketchup like they’re doused in rare truffles and gold. Burned skin, eyes wide, soul full, doing my best to absorb the image of the sun sinking before me while stealing surreptitious glances of the lovers and their addictive bliss.

[Phuket, Thailand ~ Exploring the island by motorbike]

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“Remember When”, that tame country favorite my mom loved so much, faintly strumming below earshot in a cab in Ho Chi Minh as we make our way to the airport. The familiar tune amusingly clashing with the foreign and completely dissimilar surrounding. I smile to myself, enjoying my private joke.

[Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam ~ On the way to the airport]

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The feel of the thick train ticket, the heavy weight of the gold rimmed coins, the way people line up on the platform as if called by an internal guide, never even looking up from their smart phones. The smooth movement as the train guides us to what I can only imagine to be some kind of man-made utopia, so smooth I don’t have to hold onto anything for support. The air, conditioned to perfection. Everything feels fresh, contained. The transition from the last city to this is astonishing. Everything breathing, whispering moneyy while the last locale was marked by its lack. I wonder how the forces of foreign or perhaps local? investment propelled this country forward into the realm of polished modernity. I wonder how two places so close can be so different. But then I think how that’s the exasperating question of every frustrated sibling or lover on the planet.

[Singapore ~ Arriving ~ On the way from the airport to our hotel]

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Poised tentatively on the back of a rented motorbike, adrift in a larger sea of motorbikes. A Spider-Man backpack rests on the back of a young child on a motorbike in front of me, it catches my eye and I stare, my mind capturing the image like a camera. The graphic cartoon image sits comfortably on the back of this little student, in proud Spider-Man blue and red. The image diminishing to a vibrant still in my mind as the vehicle drives off towards the activities of another life.

[Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam ~ On the way to the Mekong]

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A ferry sits in the dock in the slow, sleepy, fascinating town. Local transport. The kind most tourists wouldn’t venture on. Oh, hoh.. before I know it, our bike is zooming up the ramp, we’re going for a ride. “Alrighty then,” I think.

[Some town in the Mekong Delta ~ Exploring by motorbike]

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